Exploring the extra tiny KolibriOS

USB Flash Drive

If necessary, you can install KolibriOS on a flash drive – this again improves the operating system's launch speed. A flash configuration requires a few manual steps. First, create a partition on the stick using a tool like GParted and format it with the FAT16 or FAT32 filesystem. Don't forget to launch the boot flag, which you can do in GParted via the Partition | Edit tags menu.

Then make sure the syslinux and mtools packages are on your Linux system. If necessary, install it from the used distribution's software repositories. Then copy the memdisk file with root privileges using the command from the first line of Listing 1 into the USB flash drive root directory.

Listing 1

Copying to the USB flash drive

# cp /usr/lib/syslinux/memdisk /dev/<KolibriOS-Partition>
# syslinux -s /dev/<KolibriOS-Partition>

Subsequently, download the latest-distr.7z archive from the KolibriOS project, in which the universal image for the operating system is located. Unpack this archive, and then copy the kolibri.img file into the USB flash drive's root directory.

Afterwards, remove the USB drive from the system and enter the command from the second line of Listing 1 when prompted. The command basically sets up the system, including the bootloader. For Syslinux to work correctly, create a file called syslinux.cfg in the flash drive's main directory. You can expand this file using a text editor to include the following:

default memdisk initrd=kolibri.img

After that, the system is ready to launch from this USB drive.

In Operation

On the lower edge, the KolibriOS interface has a horizontal panel bar with a menu button at the bottom left. On the left edge – only visible at a second glance – there is a foldable switch bar that opens when clicked with the mouse.

To adjust the desktop, right-click in the working interface. You can then, for example, create an additional launcher on the desktop or change the appearance of the work environment via the corresponding entries in the context menu.

The system comes with a whole array of very slim applications. A total of around 30 icons can be found on the desktop. At the top left, you will find the launcher for office and administration software. The file managers Eolite and KFAR are similar to the Midnight Commander or PCManFM, the default file manager for LXDE desktops. Many small applications are available for daily use, including the text reader, the calculator, and the text-based web browser, WebView, as well as the Tinypad notepad and the Animage drawing program.

At the top in the right corner of the screen are additional applications, mostly for programming work. These include a terminal, comparison software for text files, a debugger, an archiver, an assembler, and a hex editor. This group is rounded off with a debug and message board, as well as a display program for software documentation.

The graphical tool Syspanel is reminiscent of the configuration tools of great desktop environments in Linux and comprises the most important tools for configuring the operating system (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Syspanel brings together all the major configuration tools in an orderly manner.

Numerous games are clustered at the bottom of the screen in the right and left corners. These games include small classics such as Sudoku, Gomoku, Tetris, Snake, Mine, and Checkers, but also several puzzle and block games. Some of the games are only available with Russian localization and are therefore of limited use.

The foldable panel bar in the middle on the left edge of the screen lets you access more applications, such as an IRC client, a text editor, both an MP3 and Midi Player, and a volume control. A graphical benchmark program, with the unusual name KGB, and a CPUID routine complete the inventory.

Menu

You will find additional software categorized into subgroups in the operating system's menu, which you can reach using the corresponding button at the bottom left in the panel bar. The focus is on games, emulators, and developer tools. In particular, the Emulators menu reveals some interesting applications: in addition to the famous DOSBox for launching old DOS software, you will also find emulators for Super Nintendo and Game Boy gaming consoles.

Of particular interest is the ZX Spectrum emulator, which emulates a 1980s home computer by the British manufacturer Sinclair. Many applications originally developed for the Spectrum are still in use today. You fill find additional games in the Game Center (Figure 3). Playback software is available in the Multimedia menu with Fplay+ for videos and movies.

Figure 3: In the Game Center, you will find a number of smaller games and emulators for the formerly widespread ZX Spectrum by Sinclair.

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